Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Growers Association

How Important are Small Livestock Farms?

Jennifer Fimbel, Agriculture Senior Resource Educator, CCE Dutchess

How important are our farms to the local economy? This is best demonstrated by an example: a sheep operation with 20 breeding ewes, 2 breeding rams and 6 replacement ewe lambs on 10 acres of rented land with sales of sheep grossing approximately $10,000 each year, plus show premiums and sales of fleeces. By anyone’s definition, this is a small farm.

But looking at actual dollars spent locally, that small farm’s impact is fairly significant in the overall scheme, and a farther reaching impact is even more impressive.

Grain purchased locally for this flock costs $300 per month or $3600 per year (corn at $11/bushel; oats at $8/bushel). Ask the grain farmer, would the loss of this farm impact your operation?

Hay purchased locally for this flock costs $200 per month or $2400 per year (grass hay at $4/50 pound bale). Ask the hay producer, would the loss of this farm impact your hay business?

Rented land to house this flock costs $200 per month or $2400 per year (pasture and barn). The farm also qualifies the landowner for ag-assessment on their taxes. Ask the landlord, would the loss of this farm impact your income?

Trailer payments to a local bank for this operation costs $270 per month or $3240 per year. Ask the local bank, would the loss of this farm impact your profitability?

Dumpster rental for farm use only costs $80 per month or $960 per year. Ask the waste management business, would the loss of this farm impact your business?

Veterinary bills for this flock are minimal at $200 per year (rabies vaccinations and health papers). Ask the local veterinarian, would the loss of this farm impact your business?

Miscellaneous equipment purchases costs this flock $50 per month or $600 per year. Ask the local feed store, would the loss of this farm impact your business?

These are the direct expenses—but let’s look at some of the indirect impacts…

This flock sells 25-30 lambs and breeding sheep into the local market each year. The loss of this farm drives up the price of lambs and breeding sheep as the supply would be diminished. Ask the local buyers, would the loss of this farm impact how much lamb or breeding animals you will buy?

This flock brings 12 – 15 sheep to the county fair each year. Ask the fair manager, would the loss of this farm impact your overall sheep numbers at the fair? Not to mention the Sheep and Wool Festival.

Do the Math. The total direct dollars, spent locally by this sheep operation, is $13,400. To some, each individual line item in this budget doesn’t seem like a tremendous amount, even adding all of the amounts up may not seem like a lot, (How does this operation stay in business? That is a topic for a different article) However, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture there are 188 farms with sheep in our four county region (Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster). Assuming (on average) they all spent this amount locally, that means $2.5 million dollars are put back into the local economy by these small sheep farms alone!

That, my friends, is a lot of cash. Support your local agriculture, when they lose we all lose.

Contact

Elizabeth Higgins
Agriculture Program Leader
emh56@cornell.edu

One thought on “How Important are Small Livestock Farms?

  1. dcswga Post author

    How *does* this operation stay in business? Comment here to explain the solutions you’ve seen others apply to offset the loss, or change it into profit. Diversification? Is that $10,000 gross figure realistic?

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